Otto Porter Jr. sure didn’t look like he’d missed 50 games. The Bulls’ forward was feelin’ it from all over the court. Porter – on limited minutes – ended up with 18 points in 17 minutes of action.
I scored a $14 ticket off Stubhub about an hour before the game. Figured it would be cool to see Luka Doncic live as he rises to superstardom. It’s like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird had a baby (and he got Magic’s smile & good looks instead of Bird’s ugly mug.) Seriously, in the first half – he’s bringing the ball up and dishing like Magic and making guys look foolish before driving for scores of stepping back and draining shots like Bird.
In the second half, the Bulls let 2-way player Adam Mokoka loose on Doncic. And the French baller shut down Luka – holding him to 8 second-half points. Mokoka really rose to the moment in his 11th NBA appearance. He can shoot, too. Bulls might have a find.
Before the game, Zach LaVine was ruled out with a minor quad strain. LaVine wanted to play, because he hasn’t missed a game all year. Team doctors wouldn’t let him. I jumped on a ticket – thinking: This could by Coby White’s first career start. I want to be in attendance when they say…”From North Carolina…at guard…” – and the place goes up for grabs in a combination of love for the new star in town and nostalgia for Tar Heel guards.
But, alas, Denzel Valentine got the start instead. I was frustrated. But all things considered, it’s probably best not to start Coby until he’s guaranteed to remain a starter for the long term. Zach could return Wednesday. Once you put Coby in the starting lineup – the community won’t stand for him coming off the bench again.
Coby and Otto entered 4 minutes into the game and things immediately became more watchable. Coby nailed a three and hit a sweet Scottie Pippen-esque midrange banker from the side. I audibly “oooh”ed at that one – sitting alone in Section 313. By alone, I mean I was there solo. There was a decent crowd at United Center- 85 percent full.
Otto missed his first shot but then began draining from everywhere. He even nailed a three while being fouled for a 4-pt opportunity. If Otto could ever stay healthy….
Mokoka bothered Luka, Denzel rained 3s on his way to 17 points and by the time Coby drove for an authoritative layup with 25 seconds left in the 4th – the Bulls led by 8. Victory seemed imminent. Especially after the Mavericks threw it away on the ensuing possession. Jim Boylen called a timeout. Unfortunately, the timeout provided Rick Carlisle to urge his team to stop hanging their heads from the timeout and play inbounds defense. Perhaps keeping the dejected-post turnover Mavs on the court and inbounding it immediately would’ve been the better move. But Boylen prefers to use his timeouts. Tomas Satoransky made a poor decision on the inbounds pass – tossing towards the Bulls’ basket. It was intercepted by Maxi Kleber, who scored quickly. Mokoka tried to inbound the ball under the basket – but that too was stolen and kicked to the corner for a 3. In the span of a few seconds the Bulls lead had shrunk from 8 to 3. Timeout Bulls. The Mavs had new life. Thad Young hit 1-of-2 free throw then the Mavs hit a three. Wendell Carter hit 1-of-2 free throws and the Mavs had one last gasp with about 3 seconds left. Doncic caught the ball at halfcourt. He made room and lifted a nearly-perfect arc toward the rim. I watched the shot rise and was sure it was going in. Luckily, it bounced off the rim and the Bulls won by 2. Whew. Escaped a devastating collapse. We’ll take it.
Wednesday in Minnesota. Lauri might be back. LaVine might be back. Coby just won Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month. Things could be worse. Go Bulls.